South Korean protesters awaiting Olympic torch
SEOUL — About 1,000 South Korean protesters from various civic organizations say they’ll gather in Seoul on Sunday morning to block the Olympic torch relay.
One group — the Christian Accountability for Society — posted a statement on its Web site Thursday to announce its protest over the Chinese government’s violent crackdown on the Tibetan people.
The protesters plan to gather in front of the Olympic Park’s Peace Gate at 11 a.m. The torch relay begins there at 2 p.m. and is supposed to arrive at Seoul City Hall by 7 p.m.
Seoul officials are keeping the route — and even those tapped to carry the torch — secret until the very last minute in an effort to thwart protesters.
Kim Gyu-ho, secretary general of the Christian Accountability Society, said in a phone interview Thursday that people from about 100 civic groups will join in the protest to let the public know that China shouldn’t host the Olympics.
Kim said the rally will be peaceful, and he doesn’t expect trouble with the police. The worst thing that could happen, he predicted, was a 300,000 won fine (about $300).
“We are totally prepared for it and willing to pay it,” he said.
Han Chang-kweon, who heads a North Korean defectors group that will join the protest, said his people will take some action to block the torch. He wouldn’t elaborate, saying that their “planned resistance activities” should remain secret.
“We [want] the world to know that China has two faces,” Han said. It’s also an opportunity to highlight the issue of the Chinese government forcing North Korean defectors to return to their own country.
The U.S. Embassy is warning Americans to “exercise caution” by postponing nonessential travel on Sunday.
“These demonstrations could escalate with little warning, further disrupting transportation systems and posing potential risks to bystanders’ personal safety,” the embassy warned in an e-mail sent Wednesday to citizens registered with the State Department.